Bulletin N° 740
Subject : 'Bad Vibrations' producing 'New Conjunctures' in the World Economy of Corporate Capitalism, with Enhanced Militarism & Climate Change.
28 February 2017
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
Understanding the difference between a contradiction and an opposition –like the indispensable distinction between conjunction and linear cause-and-effect, or between revolt and revolution-- can prevent embarking on a path towards epistemological error of major proportions. Historical study is one practice for verifying or questioning ideas which are offered as guides for behavior. By conflating the meanings of such ideas, this useful and critical practice is suspended. The red army’s victory over European fascism, for example, (despite calculatedly belated assistance from the US) was indeed an opposition of historical significance, but to understand the limitations on the actual setback suffered by fascist forces at the end of the WW II, we must first consider the economic, political, and cultural contradictions which gave rise to 20th-century Fascism (in all its manifestations) as a dominant ideology, an international cultural expression governing relationships at every level. By demonizing the apologists of fascism, we are merely attaching labels rather than sharing analyses and perceptions of real-life experiences, we contribute to the heat but not to the light. Socialists must keep their 'eyes on the prize' --as the Black Civil Rights slogan admonishes us to do- and ignore Party demagogues whose promiscuous financial backing does not withstand careful scrutiny and which, in all cases, defines the limits of their own species of ‘populist rhetoric’. It is in the silent zones --nestled safely along the taboo regions of political landscapes and historical knowledge-- that the core interests of the ruling-class can be observed, not in their rhetoric.
Authentic democratic socialist politics is found first at the local level; this politics requires cutting through the “Gordian Knot” of inaction (being in-itself) in order to enter into new modes of engagement (being for-itself) on very real, material terrain, not simply spinning symbolic constructions out of thin air, which at best may be found later buried beneath a scrapheap of forgotten protest materials and splendid hypocrisies.
The remarkable three-ring circus which we see before us today under the ‘big tent’ of Late Capitalism –a location for simultaneous performances by Republican, Democrat, & Deep-State ‘entertainers’-- is a stunningly cruel and truly frightening exhibition of concentrated force in the name of . . . well, who else but ‘the people’. At many levels this is a blood sport! and just to witness it implies a degree of complicity. For this reason we oppose it, to regain some balance for strictly existential reasons, and without much hope of actually uprooting the original structure which threatens us, as the Soviet Union’s military almost did in Nazi Germany, at great human cost. (Perhaps the very best history of this momentous encounter is Russia at War, 1941-1945, by Alexander Werth.)
Meanwhile, the histoire de long durée of Fernand Braudel brings into perspective the rich contextual reading of early historical events, which can only help us better understand who we are in the present capitalist setting and what viable options have appeared and disappeared at given moments in history. In his third and final volume of Civilization & Capitalism, 15th – 18th Century, Braudel begins with a theoretical introduction attempting to define his approach to divisions of space and time in early modern history.
Time like space, can be divided up. Our problem now is to use such divisions, at which historians excel, the better to locate chronologically and the better to understand those historical monsters, the world-economies. [The latter term is used by Braudel to designate geographically expanded economies, as opposed to local, regional and national economies.] It is not an easy task, for in their slow historical progress they admit only approximate dates: a period of growth can be dated to somewhere between ten and twenty years and not always then; a change in center of gravity might take more than a century . . . . So we are dealing with history in slow motion, with journeys that seem never-ending and so lacking in revealing incidents that there is a risk of inaccuracy in reconstructing their routes. These huge leviathans seem suspended in time: history takes centuries to build or destroy them.
A further difficulty is that we have to use the only services available, those of conjunctural history, the history of short- and medium-term change, and this is naturally more concerned with short-lived movements than with the slow-moving shifts and fluctuations we are looking for. Our first step must be therefore to offer a preliminary explanation to help us to look beyond these short-term movements – the one of course which it is easiest to detect and interpret.
It was about fifty years ago that the social sciences made the discovery that human life was subject to fluctuations and swings of periodic movements, which carry on in endless succession. Such movements, harmonious or discordant, bring to mind the vibrating cords or sounding-boards of schoolday physics. G.H. Bousquet for instance wrote in 1923: ‘The different aspects of social movements [have] an undulating rhythmic profile, not one that is invariable or varies regularly, but one marked by periods when [their] intensity increases or diminishes’. ‘Social movement’ can be taken to refer to all the movements at work in a given society, the combination of movements which forms the conjuncture or rather the conjunctures. For there may be different conjunctural rhythms affecting the economy, political life, demography and indeed collective attitudes, preoccupations, crime, the different schools of art or literature, even fashion (although fashion in dress changes so quickly in the West that it is more a question of the day-to-day than the conjunctural). Of all these, only the economic conjuncture has been seriously studies, if not pursued to its logical conclusion. So conjunctural history is extremely complex and by no means complete, as we shall see when we have to draw some conclusions.(pp.71-72)
. . .
On the question of how long-term conjuctures can be explained, Braudel writes:
Economists and historians have observed and described these movements and noted how they are superimposed, just as the tide, as François Simiand put it, carries on its back the shorter movements of the waves; the experts have also paid much attention to their many consequences, and are always surprised at their extent and their external regularity.
But they have never tried to explain why they happen, why they develop and succeed each other. The only initiative in this direction concerns Juglar cycles, which some people have tried to connect with sunspots! No one seriously believes in such a close connection. And how is one to explain other types of cycle . . . ?
. . .
To clarify (I cannot say resolve) this impossible problem, one should perhaps have recourse to the periodic vibrations we are taught about in elementary physics. Movement is the consequence of an external impact as when a string or blade is struck, and of the response of the body which is made to vibrate. The strings of a violin vibrate under the bow. One vibration can naturally lead to another; when a body of soldiers comes to a bridge it has to break step, otherwise the bridge would vibrate in time to their marching feet and might in certain circumstances shatter like glass. So let us imagine that in the complex conjuncture, one movement can have an impact on another, and then on a third and so on.
The most important impact is undoubtedly that caused by external, exogenous causes. The ancient régime economy, as Giuseppe Palomba has said, was dominated by the calendar, which brought a host of servitudes and vibrations caused by the harvest of course, but to take one example, winter was the season par excellence when peasant-artisans sat down to work. And there were also phenomena beyond the control of men and their authorities, times of plenty and times of famine, market fluctuations which might spread, the vicissitudes of foreign trade and the consequences these might have on ‘domestic’ prices: any contact between inside and outside meant a breach or a wound.
But just as important as the external impact is the context in which it occurs: is it possible to identify a finite plane or body which, being the site of a movement, fixes its time-space? I have a distant memory (1950) of a conversation with Professor Urbain, the professor of economics at Louvain University, who was always extremely careful to relate price variations to the area or volume they concerned. According to him, only those prices which obtained in the same vibrating plane were comparable. The vibrations caused by the impact of prices are felt, in fact, in the previously established networks which in my view constitute vibrating surfaces par excellence: price structures (to use the term in a slightly different sense from Léon Dupriez). The reader will see what I am getting at: the world-economy is the greatest possible vibrating surface, one which not only accepts the conjuncture but, as a certain depth or level, manufactures it. It is the world-economy at all events which creates the uniformity of price over a huge area, as an arterial system distributes blood throughout a living organism. It is a structure in itself. The problem still remains however whether, despite the coincidences I have pointed out, the secular trend is or is not a good indicator of this sounding-board. My view is that the secular vibration; inexplicable without this huge but finite surface of the world-economy, opens, closes and opens once again the gates of the complex flow of the conjuncture.
I am not sure that economic and historical research is being directed today towards these long-term problems. Pierre Léon once wrote: ‘Historians have usually remained indifferent to the long term.’ Ernest Labrousse even wrote at the beginning of his thesis, ‘I have abandoned any attempt at an explanation of long-term movements.’ Within the time-span of an intercycle, the secular trend can of course be ignored. Witold Kula on the other hand is interested in the long-term movements which ‘by their cumulative actions provoke structural transformations’, but he is almost alone in this. Michel Morineau at the other extreme, has called for a history that restores ‘to the experience of life its savour, its intensity and its event-studded fabric’. And Pïerre Vilar has pleaded that the short-term should not be lost from sight, for this would mean ‘systematically drawing a veil over all conflicts and class struggles; these stand revealed, both in the ancient régime and under capitalism, in short-term events’. We do not have to take sides in this debate which is rally a false debate, since the conjuncture should be studied in all its richness: it would be regrettable if historians did not seek to locate its boundaries on one side in the history of events and the short term, and on the other in the long-term and the secular trend. The short and the long-term coexist; they cannot be separated. [John Maynard] Keynes whose theory was built on the short-term made the much-quoted remark: ‘In the long run we are all dead’ –a remark which if it were not a joke would be both banal and absurd. For we all live in both the long-term and the short-term: the language I speak; the trade I practice, my beliefs, the human landscape surrounding me are all inherited; they existed before me and will go on existing after me.(pp.82-85)
. . .
[An] empire, a sort of super-state which might cover the entire area of a world-economy, presents us with a broader problem. On the whole, the world-empires, as [Immanuel] Wallerstein calls them, were no doubt archaic formations, representing ancient triumphs of the political over the economic. But during the period covered by this book, they were still in existence outside the western world: the Mogul Empire in India, the Chinese and Persian Empires, the Ottoman Empire and the Empire of the Tsars in Muscovy. Wallerstein has argued that wherever there was an empire, the underlying world-economy was unable to develop –that its career was stunted. It might also be argued that these were examples of the command economy, to use John Hicks’s term, or of the Asiatic mode of production, in Marx’s now-dated phrase.
It is true that an economy’s wings could be clipped by the demands and constraints of an imperial policy without means of redress. No merchant or capitalist could ever feel completely free under an empire. Michael Catacuzenus, who was a sort of Fugger to the Ottoman Empire, was summarily hanged on 13 March 1578, at the gates of his own luxurious palace at Anchioli in Istanbul, on the orders of the sultan. In China, Heshen, the ultra-rich favourite minister of the emperor K’ien Long, was executed and his fortune confiscated by the new emperor, after his master’s death. In Russia, Prince Gagarin, the governor of Siberia, although a master of prevarication, was beheaded in 1720. And one thinks of course of Jacques Coeur, Semblançay and Fouquet in France: in their own way, their trials (and the execution of Semblançay) tell us something of the political and economic conditions in France. Only a capitalist regime, however archaic it might be, had the stomach to swallow and digest such scandals.
All the same, I am personally inclined to think that even under the constraints of an oppressive empire with little concern for the particular interests of its different possessions, a world-economy could, even if rudely handled and closely watched, still survive and organize itself, extending significantly beyond the imperial frontiers: the Romans traded in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean; the Armenian merchants of Julfa, the suburb of Isfahan, spread over almost the entire world; the Indian Banyans went as far as Moscow; Chinese merchants frequented all the ports of the East Indies; Muscovy established its ascendancy over the mighty periphery of Siberia in record time. I grant that Wittforgel is not mistaken when he says that in these political high-pressure areas of the empires of traditional southern and eastern Asia, ‘the state was much stronger than society’ –stronger than society it may have been; but it was not stronger than the economy.
To return to the European example, can we not say that it escaped very soon from the stifling embrace of empire? The Roman Empire was at once more and less than Europe; the Carolingian and Ottonian Empires had little control over a Europe already in decline. The Church, while it succeeded in extending its culture over the entire surface of Europe, failed in the end to establish its political supremacy. (pp.54-55)
Braudel elsewhere defines society as ‘a set of sets,’ each set exhibiting its own internal organization as a ‘sub-system’ of the whole. The economic set of world-scale capitalism, he observes, extends beyond the limits of political systems within specific institutions, and, according to this historian, cultural organization cannot be contained by global capitalism.
Culture is the oldest character in human history: economies succeed each others, political institutions crumble, societies replace each other, but civilization continues along its way. . . . Civilization is the grandfather, the patriarch of world history.(p.65)
The 20 items below offer insights into four social ‘sets’ that constitute the context of our lives –economics, politics, culture, and social hierarchy—and hopefully will offer readers various ‘points of entry’ into collective actions to appropriate control over our lives from the abuses of capitalist interests and the mental alienation it must continually promote in order to retain power over us.
Professor emeritus of American Studies
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Fuck Trump and the Donkey He Rode in On
by Michael Albert
(November 21, 2016)
Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media
With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network.
At GOP Town Halls, Constituents Express Rage Over Plans to Nix Obamacare
Republicans faced angry crowds who questioned their elected officials about the future of the ACA
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends
in a Whimper
by Mike Whitney
The Swamp Strikes Back
by Pepe Escobar
Even before Flynn’s fall, Russian analysts had been avidly discussing whether President Trump is the new Viktor Yanukovych — who failed to stop a color revolution at his doorstep. The Made in USA color revolution by the axis of Deep State neocons, Democratic neoliberalcons and corporate media will be pursued, relentlessly, 24/7. But more than Yanukovych, Trump might actually be remixing Little Helmsman Deng Xiaoping: “crossing the river while feeling the stones”. Rather, crossing the swamp while feeling the crocs. - See more at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46455.htm#sthash.jZlJu7wi.dpuf
Greenwald: Empowering the "Deep State" to Undermine Trump is
Prescription for Destroying Democracy
by David Swanson
This April 4th will be 100 years since the U.S. Senate voted to declare war on Germany and 50 since Martin Luther King Jr. spoke out against the war on Vietnam (49 since he was killed on that speech’s first anniversary). Events are being planned to help us try to finally learn some lessons, to move beyond, not just Vietnam, but war. That declaration of war on Germany was not for the war that makes up the single most common theme of U.S. entertainment and history. It was for the war that came before that one. This was the Great War, the war to end all wars, the war without which the conditions for the next war would not have existed.
From: Jim O'Brien
Sent: Monday, 27 February, 2017
Subject: [haw-info] HAW Notes 2/27/17: Links to recent articles of interest
Links to Recent Articles of Interest
By Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network, posted February 26, 2017
The author is a professor of history emeritus at SUNY Albany.
By Christy Thornton and Stuart Schrader, Jacobin, posted February 24
The authors are, respectively, a history faculty member at Rowan University and a post-doctoral fellow at the Charles Warren Center, Harvard University.
By Jackson Lears, New York Review of Books, February 23 issue
The author teaches history at Rutgers University. This is a review essay on Stephen Kinzer’s new book The True Flag, on imperialism and anti-imperialism at the turn of the twentieth century.
By Major Danny Sjursen, TomDispatch.com, posted February 22
The author is a U.S. Army strategist and former history instructor at West Point.
By Linda Gordon, Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, posted February 18, 2017
The author teaches history at New York University.
By Jon Schwarz, The Intercept, posted February 18
By Stephen Wertheim, Washington Post, posted February 17
The author is a Fellow in History at King’s College, University of Cambridge.
By William J. Astore, AntiWar.com, posted February 13
The author, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools.
By David Blight, The Atlantic, posted February 7
The author teaches history at Yale University.
Thanks to an anonymous reader for suggesting one of the above articles. Suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although Donald Trump has only been in office for a few weeks, it is hard to go anywhere and not hear that he is the worst ever American president. Neither Richard Nixon nor Warren Harding, or even the thirty days of William Henry Harrison’s pneumonia, are believed to rank in his bottom-feeding percentile. But if Donald is that bad, it may go down as his greatest achievement.
Be Thankful for a Dysfunctional, Chaotic White House
Henry Giroux and Paul Jay discuss the Trump-Bannon-Pence administration, a naked display of the 1% ruling without apologies and damn what comes tomorrow
How Far we Have Fallen as a Nation, as a Culture for That Matter
by Philip Farruggio
A must see movie for all Americans is “Inherit the Wind” (1960, Stanley Kramer, Director). To those who never saw this film, it accurately portrays the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. The trial of substitute high school teacher John Scopes was for breaking Tennessee’s Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution in state-funded schools. In a nutshell, the film had many levels to it in addition to the story line of questioning the legality of such a law. What really frightened this writer, and yes, frightened is the proper word to use, is how 92 years later America has not (to use the apropos word) evolved at all!
German Intel Clears Russia on Interference
Mainstream U.S. media only wants stories of Russian perfidy, so when German intelligence cleared Moscow of suspected subversion of German democracy, the silence was deafening, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern. - See more at: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46467.htm#sthash.pccGPeMQ.dpuf
The US coup d’état goes viral
Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign
by Mike Whitney
The war party is back in power and the odds of normal relations with Russia have dropped to zero. The appointment of Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster to the position of national security adviser indicates that Trump has done an about-face on his most critical foreign policy issue, normalizing relations with Russia. General Michael Flynn– who recently stepped down from the post following allegations of lying to Vice President Mike Pence –was the main proponent of easing tensions with Moscow which is a position that had been enthusiastically embraced by President Donald Trump. But McMaster does not support normalizing relations with Russia, in fact, McMaster sees Russia as a “hostile revisionist power” that “annex(es) territory, intimidates our allies, develops nuclear weapons, and uses proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries.” So, what’s going on? Why has Trump put a Moscow-hating hawk like McMaster in a position where he’ll be able to intensify the pressure on Russia, increase the provocations and, very likely, trigger a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed superpowers?
The Trump Presidency: RIP
by Paul Craig Roberts
Listening to Trump (on the campaign trail)
(November 21, 2016)
#StopTrump: Protests Erupt Across Britain
as Lawmakers Debate Canceling Trump's State Visit
Sent: Tuesday, 21 February, 2017
Subject: Jacobin + Up From Darkness
A few times a day, an otherwise blissful moment is interrupted and we remember that Donald Trump is president.
A few times a day, an otherwise blissful moment is interrupted and we remember that Donald Trump is president.
Donald Trump’s election was a disaster for working people — but we're seeing a fight back that is saving us from total despair.
Still, young movements need ideas and we need to know our enemy better. With this in mind, we put together today’s new edition, “Journey to the Dark Side.” As usual, it’s a visually beautiful issue, and inside we make sure to provide historical context to help readers situate Trumpism.
We look to examples from home and abroad to draw out potential lessons about how to beat the populist right and construct an alternative that can build a majority of a very different sort.
We hope you get a chance to check out the issue. If you’re a first-time subscriber, you can follow this link to get four issues at a discounted rate. If you’re an existing subscriber, your copy is on the way!
Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. ‘Leakers’
Topakian, Greenpeace" <email@example.com>
Sent: Saturday, 25 February, 2017
Subject: Did you see that RESIST banner above the White House? That was us.
I can hardly believe it was a
month ago today that I — along with six other Greenpeace activists — climbed
a giant crane and unfurled a massive hand-painted RESIST banner high above the
White House. We were there to send a message to all those who want to resist
Trump’s attacks on environmental, social, economic, and educational justice
to rise up for a better United States of America.